Hiring Help?

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[ UPDATE: Voting is now closed. ]

Question: If you could hire someone to help you for the day, would you hire a driver, a house cleaner, a cook, or a babysitter? Click your pick above — I’d love to know!

A few weeks ago I posted a house tour that generated quite a few comments about hired help. Mostly, they implied that since the house was so orderly and beautiful, there must be a ton of hired help — and the tone of the comments sometimes hinted that hired help was a negative thing. I’m not sure if I’ve ever completely understood the strong reactions this topic can inspire. But I’d like to understand better.

In my day dreams, our household is run by Alice from The Brady Bunch. She lives at the house in her own little apartment, so she’s pretty much always available. And she knows the house so well that she doesn’t need instructions on where the books go, or which clothes belong in which bedroom, or when the fire alarm batteries need to be changed. She makes it her job to know. She’s not a nanny, but she can watch the kids in a pinch. And she can run errands as well. It’s a lovely day dream.

Personally, I’m a fan of getting help! I’ve hired help whenever we’ve needed it and had the budget for it. When we didn’t have the budget for it, I would make babysitting trades and even spring cleaning trades with friends and neighbors. Sometimes the help means a babysitter — currently, little June goes to a sitter twice a week. Sometimes the help means a full-on assistant — in Colorado, Melanie of You Are My Fave came to my house every morning to help run my business, which included a range of tasks from assisting with emails, to running errands, to helping make Halloween costumes. (She was amazing, by the way!) Sometimes the help means a house cleaner — during our last year in New York, a lovely woman came twice a month to give the house a good scrubbing.

But I have friends who are really uncomfortable getting help. Some think it’s a waste of money. Some feel guilty about getting help. Some saw their mothers do it alone, and want to model the same thing for their own kids. Some feel the house and the children are their responsibility — and they feel that getting help is shirking that responsibility.

And obviously, the whole conversation comes from a place of cultural tradition (and sometimes privilege too). In fact, like you, I’ve had friends move all over the world, and in certain countries, it’s expected that they will hire help. It would be rude to the local community if they didn’t.

What’s your take? Have you ever hired help? Do you have help now? Do you have a strong opinion on the subject either way?

154 thoughts on “Hiring Help?”

  1. I have never hired someone to help around the house before, but I intend to in the very near future! I have one year left before I complete my Masters and return to full-time work. I stay home now with our daughter. My husband and I are planning to hire a weekly house cleaner for our modest home (1,000 sq feet) when I begin working again. We try to spend our money based on what we value. Right now our priorities are spending time as a family, travel and health. Hiring a house cleaner means less time doing chores and more time having fun! The trade-off in our budget is spending less on things like house décor and new clothes. We also don’t have cable!

  2. My sister was living with us and doing her student teaching when our second was born. Having her around to help was an insightful experience. I always thought I would be a “worse” mom if I let someone else spend valuable time with my children, but I actually felt like a better mom! If I was busy, there was someone else there to do something worthwhile with my child (rather than turning her to an electronic babysitter like a movie or computer games). I felt happier having a few moments to do things I wanted or needed to do, helping me enjoy time with my kids even more because I wasn’t stressed. Also, it was really valuable to have her experience the skills and expertise of someone else!

    That said, we haven’t ever hired help for these things, but if it was in the budget, I’d go for a housecleaner or a babysitter for sure.

  3. If we ever won the lottery I would hire a personal chef or cook hands down. It’s not that I don’t like cooking, I am just not that great at it. I love eating and good meals but sometimes (most of the time) it’s so easy to call for pizza so that would definitely be a luxury to splurge on.

  4. I make a living being hired help as a nanny. I never had a nanny growing up, but the more I make this a career, the more I see how lovely it is for someone to graciously accept help. I think in an age/society where we put so much unnecessary pressure on ourselves to “do it all” there is little room for inviting the help we truly need. I love my nanny work because, yeah, I love kids. But I love mothers more. Mothers and families. Most of us don’t know what motherhood personally entails for us until we are in it. And then we might panic because it was totally different than we thought. And then we get a hand, get a better perspective of things and start living the motherhood that is right for us. Personally, I’d hire cleaning help or a dog groomer or a gardner- why just choose one!

  5. Hands down, a house cleaner. We used to have a friend who cleaned for us. We hired her to help get ready for a birthday party and decided to keep her. But when we moved to a new house, that was a luxury I gave up. Its not that I can’t clean, its just the time with both of us working, all of our activities (church, sports, Cub Scouts, etc.) that the deep cleaning just gets pushed aside. I just a love a freshly cleaned house, and we have people over all the time, so always feel the need to have the house in good shape. Second place is a cook (with above said schedule, we do eat out/on the run too much), third a regular babysitter.

  6. A number of years ago my husband was struggling to get our lawn mowed – he’d be doing it by headlight after the kids went to bed. We were under a lot of scrutiny from our neighbors, living between two retirees and my husband was travelling a lot. Finally, I talked him into hiring a neighbor kid. It was such a relief for him! This year our oldest is taking on the mowing, but we still need to pay him, so we’re still hiring help!

    Also, after I had some health problems and had three kids under 6, I had a housekeeper. She came every week for an 8 hour day. It was heaven! She did laundry, cleaned closets, cleared clutter. She knew my house better than I did. After a few years, she got a different job and had to quit and now I have no help. I tried an agency for a while, but it was too impersonal. My cleaner became (and still is!) my friend.

    I totally encourage people to get help wherever they need it. I used to iron my husband’s shirts, but now I send them out to be laundered. If I could, at this point I’d even hire some cooking. I love to cook, but I hate routine cooking. I go through ruts and we end up eating lots of sandwiches and baked chicken. LOL!

  7. I would take one of each! If i had to choose, cleaner. I despise it, and with three littles, it is nevet-ending.

  8. This is such an interesting discussion! I definitely would go for a cleaner. Its okay to admit that we can’t do everything by ourselves and I would love to free up time spent cleaning and doing chores so that I can do more fun things with my girl or doing jewelry! Having some help to free me of the onerous chores makes me a less cranky person and therefore a happier mom and wife all around!

  9. We are Americans living in Latin America where it is extremely common to have household help! Everyone I know has a maid-several times a week or full time. Some also live-in and most function as nannies.

    Personally, we have a maid work 2 full days a week. She does all our laundry, cleans, helps in the kitchen and watches my children if I need to run to the store–it’s wonderful! There can be a problem w maids being treated poorly and many love to work for Americans or other expats as the pay and situation is often much better.

    It’s funny because I was having cleaners come every 2 weeks in the States and did not mention it w friends as most could not afford it and it seemed a little taboo! And I paid the same for that service in the States twice a month that I pay here for 8 full days a month!

  10. It’s definitely a cultural thing, isn’t it? My parents lived in Mexico when I was born, and they always hired a local woman to help with laundry, etc. It wasn’t abnormal at all! It’s funny how if I were to do that here in America I’d be perceived as lazy.

  11. i only know one person who hires help. she’s very well off, has a high-powered career and had a 7 month-old baby when i went over to her place one day and realized she had a full-time nanny, an occasional weekend nanny, a cook AND a cleaning lady. she hires four different people to help her! i’m assuming the cook and cleaning lady are maybe only there occasionally, but i was too embarrassed to actually ask cause it made me very uncomfortable (how do you talk to someone else’s help if you’ve never had help yourself and actually identify more with the working class anyway?). at some point i asked her if she had plans for more kids, and she said she wasn’t so sure cause it’s a lot of work and very hard. it made me almost angry inside – how could she find it hard when she had so much help? i thought, god rich people can be so spoiled. but then i had a baby myself a year later and guess what, i wish i could afford a little help here and there! (i would choose a cleaner, as leta said – the cleaning is never-ending with little ones)

    also, i wish my husband was more open to the idea of getting help. he has this romanticised idea that a wife/mother should be able to do it all – cook, clean, look after the kids herself. of course, both our mothers had no help and seemed to do it all when we were kids, but we never saw them when their first kids were babies. i bet the house was a mess and they found it hard at first, too.

  12. It’s so interesting to read everyone’s perspectives on this!

    We have a house cleaner who comes for one hour every two weeks. I’d love to have her more, but that’s all we can afford. It’s good incentive for us to have everything tidy and put away when she arrives, because if she has to pick shoes up off the floor, she won’t have time to clean the mirrors and I’d rather put shoes away than clean mirrors. :)

    I’m not efficient at cleaning. It would take me four times as long to do everything that our cleaning person gets done in an hour. I could cut my own hair, too, but I know a professional can do a better job and do it quicker, and for me that’s worth the money.

    We also hire a crew to help us with the trimming and other cleanup that our over-planted yard requires at least twice a year. Again, stuff we could do, but we’d spend weeks doing it in the evenings and a crew can get it done in a day or two.

    If I could hire someone for a day, it would be a cleaner. And then I’d send him or her to my sister’s house to do all the stuff that she needs done. Not because my sister is dirty – she’s a better housekeeper than I am for sure. Because she’s a single mom who doesn’t have a spouse and a couple hours of professional help each month, and she deserves a break.

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  14. I have two comments about this topic. Both of my parents worked full time and we always had a weekly housekeeper. I always thought this was great until I grew up and had to manage my own household. As a teenager I didn’t not have regular chores and never saw my parents do any household chores beyond dishes and an occasional vacuum job. It took quite a while to figure out how to keep my own home clean, what products to use, and how to perform non routine tasks. I’m still not terrific at it and my husband (who came from a family of 6 boys and always had chores) is much better than I am. I think we loose important life lessons for our children when we hire out tasks that they will need to do, until they can hire someone else to do them.
    That being said – when I had my fourth child my mother gave me 6 months of a weekly cleaning service which was absolutely heaven! It was truly the gift of time and sanity and the only time my whole house has ever been clean at the same time.

  15. I know what you mean about inner defenses–we have had a part-time nanny for more than three years and for a long time I could barely say that out loud. I often referred to her as a “sitter”–why?!? I guess something from my lower-middle-class background told me having a nanny is for the uber-privileged or that it would be pretentious to refer to “our nanny.” It was completely ridiculous, I know, especially since I have four children (three 5 and under), I work halftime from home, my husband works 70+ hours/week and travels internationally 30% of the time for work, and we live 3000 miles away from all of our family. I am the poster child for needing help! But once I took some of those defenses down and started looking outward, I realized almost everyone I know has “help” in some form or another. My friend who has her two young kids in preschool three mornings per week? She has help. My friend whose mother comes over to watch the kids so she can grocery shop or go to the doctor or have a girls’ lunch out? She has help too.

    The tipping point for me was when my mother-in-law, who has made her disdain for “help” well known, was talking about some neighbors her family had when she was growing up. In the course of the conversation she ended up telling me how wonderful these neighbors were because they would often watch her and her siblings so her mother could run errands or if she just needed a break. Guess what? That’s help! So yes, we have help. She’s our nanny. And she rocks.

    1. We also have a part-time nanny and I refer to her as a sitter, too! I feel like its’s ridiculous and doesn’t convey the enormous job that she does.

  16. My mother always cleaned and did everything on her own (with the help of my father, but no hired help), including cook for us kids. They only had babysitters when they went out on dates.
    So I guess I feel I want to do the same. I enjoy cleaning…not dusting…my husband enjoys cooking…
    But right now I am in the middle of some pretty crazy morning sickness, so help might be nice! I vacuumed the entire house this morning for the first time in 2 weeks!
    Part of what works for us is routine. On days off I do laundry, clean bathrooms, vacuum, etc. We like to get that done before we let the “fun” of the weekend begin. It works for us, and I like the sense of accomplishment. I also really like my house, so I like to “be with it”, even if that means spending part of the day cleaning. For me it’s like stewardship.
    For others, it may not be, and that is fine. Different things work for different folks. I think you have to go by your intuition. We are very private people and so having someone come in to scour my baseboards just doesn’t seem like a fit for me.
    However, I have several friends and relatives who have been the helpers. And the people they’ve worked for have taken great care of them. So I would imagine it could open up some new friendships if we had help in the future!

  17. Growing up, we always had help with cleaning. Both parents worked full time and my dad called it, “Stress Insurance.” With five kids and a busy house, it freed my mom up to do other things. But also, my parents realized that it helped women who needed the work help themselves too. So many great relationships came out of the women who cleaned our house. And now that my parents are mostly empty-nesters, I think they enjoy coming home to a clean house even more!

    I don’t have help, but if it ever becomes financially viable, I’d jump at the chance!

  18. My husband thinks that I would like to have someone else do the cooking and the cleaning if we had the funds.

    No matter how much I’ve told him that I don’t want that, he still thinks I would like that.

    I LIKE to cook! Now, someone to wash the pots and pans is fine, but I like the cooking part!

    My mom is in a networking group with someone who runs a cleaning company. She had the opportunity to hire someone for a few hours to clean and she asked me if I wanted to have this person come clean for me as a gift. I said sure.

    During all of that time, she was only able to clean one bathroom, wipe down my upper cabinets in the kitchen (fronts only) and the top of my stove (not even the hood vent or the front of the oven). She took an hour to clean just one bathroom, a task that I know takes 15 minutes or less.

    I was unimpressed. If I was going to hire help, I want them to clean quickly.
    I think other people probably do, but I wasn’t willing to recommend this company.

    It’s interesting that a few people mentioned Switzerland in the comments. Whne I lived there, I knew two women, both doctors from the Phillipines, who left the Phillipines to live illegally in Geneva. They made more money cleaning houses in Switzerland than they did as doctors in the Phillipines, they said.

    (BTW, about 51% of the population in Geneva is there illegally, and many for much different reasons, including escaping war).

    I don’t love cleaning, but I don’t really want to hire help for that. I do want my children to help (and they do; in fact, my 11-year-old and 9-year-old clean bathrooms, and all of the children down to age 2 can and do fold all of the laundry). I would like to be able to hire a babysitter and go out on dates with my husband, but with 7 children ages 11 and under, it would be a fortune!

    1. You can clean your bathroom is 15 minutes? You ARE the white tornado from the old commercial. I’d say a thorough scrubbing of a bathroom could easily take one hour. But maybe our cleaning standards are different.

  19. When we lived in the Us we didn’t have help, though I would have loved having a housekeeper. Her in Amgola, where we are expats, everyone has a driver (we aren’t allowed to drive ourselves) and I have a housekeeper 3 times a week. I love it and don’t at various times. The driver is great, traffic is awful here, and it is nice to take a nap when you are on a long drive somewhere, but when you are cooking and realize you don’t have an ingredient, the driver is gone for the day… That is frustrating. The houses here are filthy and having a housekeeper is the norm… And I love not cleaning bathrooms, or ironing or mopping… But she doesn’t know where I put everything so sometimes it is a game of hide and seek… 9 months and we are still figuring out what works best. Overall I love have a housekeeper… But sometimes my type A personality thinks it would be easier to so it myself…. Till the oven is filthy!

  20. I believe in putting the money back into circulation. We have a house cleaner come in every other week. I have thought, on occasion, of just doing the job myself but I like knowing this money is going back into our economy.

  21. Gabrielle, you ask a wonderful question! It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that growing up I had hired help. As a child my mom hired “helpers” to help around the house with cleaning, cooking, and nanny duties. Never once did I think they were there to work, I always assumed they were there to help. During these times with hired help my mother was either working or needed assistance with a home childcare. And you know what? I loved our “helpers”. They were an extension of our family during the day and they helped me learn new Spanish words. (They were all Spanish speakers and I am Hispanic so it was useful because I had a lot of questions.)

    I can’t believe I never realized that they were essentially hired help! Modern day nannies, cooks, and maids. I loved that my mom treated them as a co-worker and integrated them into our daily life so much that they became part of the pulse of our home.

    It was lovely for my mom to have help. Mothering and caring for children is hard work. Who wouldn’t want help?! I love the idea of it and it was such a great part of my childhood. I don’t know if I would do it in my future family, but if it worked I would definitely consider the help.

    Great post!

  22. I’m jealous of people saying help is $60 a month.. why not! Lol here where wages are high 60 would get you like 2-3 hours help. As we are middle -low wage earners this is not possible for us. However I have done cleaning swaps/babysitting for friends.

    Maybe I’m funny but I have no problem having people over (we’re very friendly) but I just don’t like the thought of people cleaning for me, doing things for me lol. I sometimes even worry when we have babysitters come over so we can go on a date. Maybe I’m embarrassed about my house when I’m not there!?!?! (I really don’t know?!)

    Here is also common for people to come for au pair/working exchange. I have a few friends who did it (have someone do work in exchange for food/board) and they did not like it. Its not as fun as people think to always have someone in your space. A friend actually disliked this poor European girl trying so hard to be helpful around the house, and trying to take the kids etc. It actually annoyed my friend and she thought she would SO LOVE having help. I think perhaps help is best if you are NOT there sometimes.

    I also have a friend moving to Indonesia and she is having hard time grasping having live in help. She firmly believes the kids should do housework and not learn someone else will be there to pick up after them. she’s worried what the driver will do all day when they don’t go out. Though she sees that living in a new country she will need some help, and that their employer pays the help 3 times the local wage so she logically knows she is doing someone a service by allowing them to be her help … but she is having such difficulities accepting it which I understand. I actually have a lot of Indonesian friends and help is just so normal to them they are all like what you worried about? everyone has help! (obviously not the very poor)

    its very interesting topic.

  23. This wasn’t one of the options, but I would hire someone to do a daily blow out and style my hair!!

    But seriously, we recently hired someone to clean our house every other week. I had some of the same hang ups mentioned previously, but it really boiled down to a couple of things. First, I absolutely hate to clean and there are simply other ways I want to spend my time. And second, after talking with a friend I decided that it fits in to part of my responsibility to the community. The economy is based on people purchasing goods and services and this is no different. There are people who have a skill and need income and I am willing and able to provide it. It’s no different than eating at a restaurant when I am perfectly able to cook at home or buying clothes at the store when I could very well get a sewing machine and make my own. You need a job? I will hire you to do it.

  24. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned an au pair. I’ve had au pairs for the last 6 years from France, Germany, Spain and Brazil and it has worked out brilliantly! I work part time and they help out with childcare and manage the children’s clothes. They get to improve their English and have a great social life.
    This is a really good blog from an au pair’s perspective leftbankmanc.blogspot.com/

  25. I find these comments interesting. Today everyone seems so positive about hiring help, yet the other day there was a distinctly snarky tone regarding that home tour.

    Personally, I have hired a cleaner when pregnant and would love to hire someone to help with the heavy cleaning, walls, windows, baseboards, etc.

  26. There are certainly days I would take any of the above mentioned help. However, my husband and I feel it’s important for our 4 year old and 8 year old to help and be part of cooking and cleaning. We grow a lot of our own food and cooking is an extensive of the process. Each child has a night to choose what’s for dinner and they help me make it. And they help with a lot of our blitz cleaning. I hope it helps them to respect, take care of and value our home. And not to mention being capable to do the cooking and cleaning when they are on there own. All that being said, when I had an unhappy infant and a three year old the twice-a-month cleaning lady was amazing.

  27. When I was pregnant with my third I came to the conclusion, really, the revelation I could not longer keep my home as clean as I wanted. I could no longer scrub on my knees and wield a big belly with two toddlers running around. Hiring a weekly housekeeper for a day has been the best investment we’ve ever made. I gladly would skip one meal out in exchange for a day of housekeeper help. I do our family/business taxes, don’t drink coffee out much, and there is my little savings to put towards my housekeeper budget. :)

  28. We have had a bi-weekly housecleaner for the past 14 years. I have often heard my husband tell anyone who will listen than he would do without almost any other luxury before doing without that. We have also added in some laundry help (mostly with folding and putting away) and with my 4th on the way, I can’t see any downside to that. None thing I won’t delegate: time with my kids!!

  29. I am surprised there aren’t more vote for cooking – although I would never do it since I don’t live in a culture of hired help either, it is a real rush to put a healthy dinner on the table at 6h30 with 4 children age 3 to 9 and both parents working full time. The grand-mothers are welcome anytime:) Our cleaning lady is subsidized (Quebec) and comes twice a month for half-days. Until my girls start cleaning it will remain a good idea.

  30. I’m single with no kids and I still feel I don’t have time to do it all. When I was in graduate school and working full time, I hired someone to clean my apartment twice per month. I loved the Thursdays when I didn’t have class and would come home to a clean house. Heaven. When I graduated I stopped the service because it seemed ridiculously indulgent. I want it back!

    Now, if I hit the lottery (which I don’t even play), I would hire a chef and personal trainer in addition to having my house cleaned. (I dream of Oprah’s life.)

  31. Hi Gabrielle! What a great topic. You are right, in certain cultures it is expected to get help. I am Italian, and all my friends — whether working moms or not — have some kind of help. Perhaps this is the reason why I have never been uncomfortable asking for help. Finding good help is an entire different matter though! I remember talking about it last year in this post:

    http://fashion-for-the-rest-of-us.blogspot.ca/2012/01/housekeeper-always-comes-first.html

    BK (before kids) we had a house cleaner once a week, and that was perfect for me and my husband — and avoided a lot of bickering about who had to clean the bathroom on the weekend. AK (after kids) things get more complicated, because I realized early on that I needed (as you have) a housekeeper, who could both help with house cleaning and babysitting, but also with errands. We were lucky to find such a person when my son turned two and my work was in full swing because I was applying for tenure. Over the years, her personal situation has changed and I have tried to find a replacement, but unsuccessfully. So now I work around her schedule, to make sure she can still come!

  32. I did not grow up in a house that could afford hired help. I thought it was a luxury for the rich. My views began to shift when I moved to New York and met a Pakistani girl who grew up in a house full of hired help. She said she felt it was her family’s duty to share their wealth to the local community by giving people a wage for an honest day’s work. Blatant charity would hurt their pride but that giving them a job would economically empower them.
    Fast forward to my life now. I am a military spouse. We aren’t wealthy by any stretch but we intentionally chose a house smaller than we could afford so that we could hire a house cleaner twice a month, weekly lawn care, and private sitting 3 times a week as part of a group.
    The cleaner and I work side by side. I sincerely appreciate the help. She depends on the houses she cleans for her family to make ends meet.
    We have learned so much from our lawn guy about the trees in our yard, what grass is best to seed in our area, how to manage weeds organically, what seasons to move shrubs, etc.
    And last but not least the sitter(s) are extremely talented and have taught us so much about parenting. They bring out the absolute best in my child and have slowly modeled to us how to help our child become collaborative, independent and respectful. They are like yoda for 2-5 year olds. and because of what they taught us we have effectively bypassed the “terrible twos”. My two and a half year old hasn’t thrown a tantrum in over 4 months. To me its worth every penny.

    My intention in hiring the help was to free up nights and weekends for playing and family time. It has done that, but the unintended side effect of hiring good help is how much they have enriched my life with their wisdom and friendship. They say it takes a village. With 0% chance of ever being stationed near my nuclear family, this is my village. These are my people.

  33. We hired a woman to clean our house, and she comes weekly, with her sister-in-laws. They are amazing. We have a typical employer/employee relationship. She takes time off when she needs it (not paid; I work for myself and don’t get paid time off, either), gets a great year-end bonus, and little gifts throughout the year, e.g., nice candies on Valentine’s day, etc. I don’t feel guilty about hiring help because I respect my housekeeper as a self-employed person, just like I am. She has valuable skills that I need and I hire her like I would a photographer, writer, etc.

  34. A few ppl mentioned concerns about what they are modeling to their children if they hire cleaning help. I think you are modeling, 1.) it’s okay to ask for help, 2.) it’s normal to not be able to and or want to do it all, 3.)prioritizing-family time over cleaning and budgeting accordingly, 4.) the joys of having a clean house. My friends who grew up with cleaning help have exponentially higher cleaning standards AND abilities than my friends who didn’t. In college-where obviously no one had help, the previous group had the cleanest dorm rooms–and 15 years later, that is reflected in our homes. At first, when all of us were financially strapped, we just hired cleaning help before company visited (early 20’s) and we’ve all slowly been increasing the frequency as time allows. Hiring help models good things to children–I’m a happier mom for sure. I wonder if its only looked down on if you’re a SAHM with hired help?! I work–but even if I didn’t, I’d still want cleaning help. Also, even my toddler helps pre-clean: a ritual the night before the cleaning lady comes. Toys and clothes need to be picked up and put away every day..cleaning help is for floors and toilets.

  35. This is a very timely post for me. I would definitely choose a house cleaner. When I moved into my new-built house, I had 5 kids and my back went out. I finally hired someone to clean my bathrooms and mop my floors every week. I paid her a flat rate to just do those items. Sometimes it took her a long time especially when she brought her baby. My back started to get better and I started feeling guilty for the help and more so if I was talking on the phone while she was here. She eventually had to quit because her husband got a new job out of town. I didn’t replace her.
    A few years later after having baby #6 and the economy crashed, I ended up being the cleaning lady for someone else. One lady paid me well and I tried to do my very best because I knew it was making her day better. I became good friends with her. At first she didn’t want her kids to know that I came because she wanted them to know the value of cleaning and have their responsibilities. They did find out and they loved me for it. Eventually I quit because I went back to school and became too busy. I didn’t need the money as much as the market was improving.
    Now I just recently hired someone to help me but I struggle with it because she doesn’t clean as fast or as well as I do. She was willing to take less pay but I went higher than what she suggested because I find the value in hard work. I don’t know how to tell her that she needs to get it cleaner.

  36. My southern grandmother was raised in a house with The Help and my dad said she complained his whole childhood about not having help.

    I had a woman clean my floors and bathrooms my last pregnancy and it was wonderful. I want a housekeeper and someone to run my errands. Errands make me crazy.

  37. My husband and I daydream about having a housekeeper, but my vote was Nanny McPhee.

    Not because I don’t want to be emotionally distanced from my kids, but because then we can go adventuring more. I’m not good about just sitting at home — there’s so much fun stuff out in the world!, but I’m outnumbered by my kids 4:1. Knowing that somebody will have a meltdown (either the 2 year old or my child with ASD), while everyone else wants to be on the move makes it hard to take all of them anywhere on my own. Having another grown up there to help the happy kids while I deal with the drama would be amazing.

  38. I am a neat freak, but I am also a terrible housekeeper who HATES cleaning bathrooms. (Seriously, men who pee on the seat should be required to clean their own bathrooms. but I digress.)

    When the kids were little I did have a cleaning service come in twice a month for a solid cleaning. Really, all i wanted was a proper cleaning of the bathrooms and my stove, and give all the hardwood floors a real cleaning (no mops for those ladies, everything was hands and knees with a pile of clean rags) and everything else was cake (I’m allergic to dust mites so I vacuum and dust daily.)

    We’ve been out of the country and I got by, and now that we are moving into the house again I’m trying to come up with justification for hiring someone again. Its a tougher decision now that the kids are in school full time and I’m not working, so it is now an extravagance.

  39. What an interesting discussion. I´d like to join, though probably I am a little late.

    I am Durch/German and was born in a West African country in the late sixties, and my parents had loads of help (nanny, cook, driver, gardener). It was absolutely normal there, and obviously very affordable. The nanny and her family even lived in the staff quarters in the back yard, and my parents would pay for her childrens school uniforms etc.

    When we moved to Germany in the Seventies, my parents never had help, although they could have afforded a weekly cleaner, as most neighbors had.

    My partner and I both often work 50+ hours a week, and we have a cleaner come for half a day each week. In these 4,5 hours she really cleans and tidies everything beautifully. I hate the four weeks every summer, when she is travelling and everything gets chaotic and a bit grubby. We do clean ourselves, but her work is so much better than ours :-)

    My partner and I both freelance, and some months we are shorter on money than on others. But the money spent on the cleaner is such a good investment, that we would rather do away with something else (the third outing to that nice restaurant or an extra pair of shoes) than miss out on her help. It is also great for our relationship, as there are much fewer reasons to quarrel about.

    Which brings me to one thing that came across as a little strange in this discussion: The way most contributors wrote, it sounds as if housework still naturally seems to be a female field for most of you here. It was the same with my parents, but I feel that there have been many changes in Germany since then. I am very happy to say that my partner probably even does a larger share of housework than I do. While I can happily ignore messy areas for quite some time, he can´t tolerate the look of dirty dishes or piles of stuff on the stairs. So he is always quick to clean them away. he also does 70% of the cooking. As a compensation I iron his shirts while watching TV :-)

  40. PS. To answer your question: As we already have our cleaner, I would like to chose another extra help. But not a nanny or a driver or a cook. No! I would LOVE someone to come and organize my paperwork once a month and help me with taxes etc.

  41. I have a unique situation where I’m anticipating getting a lot of help to not getting any help at all. For the past three years, I have been teaching at an international school in Saudi Arabia. I delivered my baby here and hired a live-in nanny to help out (which is expected in our compound). She is here five days a week and goes home for the weekends and she prefers it this way. She’s a mom to my daughter during the day and helps me cook and clean in the afternoon, we do it together. She keeps me organized in school work, exercise and even grocery shopping. She taught my daughter how to eat with utensils, how to ride a tricycle and she was the one who successfully potty-trained.

    I will truly miss her since I am moving back to Chicago and will start teaching in September. I have all of July and August to learn how to run a household while being a working mom. With a teacher’s salary in the states, I cannot see myself hiring help. If there was a Design Mom instagram contest for hired help, I would put my name in. :)

  42. This is a timely post for me, Gabrielle! Thanks for asking and letting us all read the responses.

    My husband grew up in an Asian country with a stay at home mom, and executive dad, and a full time housekeeper. As an adult, his standards are very high for a clean home, but he doesn’t entirely seem to be aware of the work that goes into it. Conversely, I grew up with two parents, a pretty grubby home, and absolutely no cleaning help, though my mom did have a babysitter when my little brother was young.

    When I had my kids (ages 2 and 7 now), it suddenly became clear to me just how hard it is to do it all, and have the capacity to be present and aware as my children grow. We decided to get some house cleaners (they come twice a month), because it seemed that to do all the cleaning that my husband and I both wanted, I’d have to hire someone to take care of the kids! I decided I’d rather have help with the stuff that I didn’t enjoy (the cleaning) rather than the stuff I want to enjoy (spending time with my kids). Ironically, it would be less expensive to hire a babysitter, even in the higher-than-going-rate wage.

    I worry about making my kids aware of the work that goes into maintaining a household — ignorance leads to entitlement, I think. I’d like them to have the awareness that I did, growing up, unlike what my husband had. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what that would look like. My husband had an experience where no one said anything about how to do housework, ever (he had to ask someone in his dorm for help, his first week in college, so he could learn how to use the washing machine and dryer). My experience was that everyone was always mad about doing the housework, and my parents had epic battles about it. I’d like some joyful alternative, where a household is happily maintained, together. For me, cleaners are part of that mix.

  43. I have a wonderful lady named Lucy come in every Saturday for 6-8 hours to clean and do laundry. Lucy is from the Philippines and works as a nanny here in Canada. She has 6 grown children. When her children were young, and she was still living in her home country, she too had a nanny! It was expected.
    I have 5 children, ages 1-10. I am also a part-time student, my husband works long hours, and I am starting a business. I have no family living close by who are able to babysit. . . still I get the feeling from talking the older generation that I should be able to do it all on my own (!) and that I am somehow shirking my responsibilities by hiring help one day a week.
    But I don’t care, and I would absolutely hire someone full-time if I could afford it, because of the peace and sanity it brings to our home.
    Years ago, during my teens and early twenties I actually worked as a nanny and housekeeper. Several of my clients had large families and I swore that if I ever had the opportunity, I too would hire the same kind of help for myself. It is a great blessing and I feel very privileged indeed. Why all the judgement? I don’t know why we have to be so hard on ourselves and others.
    Lucy, by the way, adores our family, and thanks me for letting her work for us. She really needs the money as she is supporting family members in the Philippines. I feel good that I am able to help her too.

  44. sewingsuitsme

    One of the best things I did for myself and my family of 7 was to hire a part-time personal assistant. It has been a relief to get help with some of the tedious chores of running a busy household: dry-cleaning and laundry pick-up/drop-off, taking the car for inspection, dropping off clothing donations, finding the best place to get that piece of mirror cut for the small table that keeps getting knocked over, researching the best price and place to purchase a custom size rug pad, picking up that little part to fix the lamp, doing a dreaded grocery store run, returning those clothes that have been sitting in the car for several weeks, etc. I wish she could go get my blood work done…..

  45. My family is a big DIY family, but over the years I’ve decided there are certain things I won’t do myself, period. My parents are really wise with their money, they’ve made great investments, and they do things themselves all the time so they can save money–but I’ve seen it take its toll on their health (back problems, specifically) and the amount of free time they have, so things like roofing, fixing swamp coolers or A/C units, and major landscaping/tree removal I will absolutely pay people to do for me. And if I’m ever in a position to hire someone, I would have someone come clean once a week, and maybe have someone come help me cook once a month so I could take one day and knock out a bunch of freezer meals or something–having an extra person to help chop, dice, and measure would make that process so much faster.
    I don’t think anyone should feel guilty about hiring help. If there’s someone who is willing to do that work for pay, and I’m willing to pay to have them do it, then that’s all there is to it. Some people might judge, but it’s not about what other people think–and if it is, then there are obviously bigger issues at play. My thoughts are essentially this: We all have enough stress in our lives as it is. If hiring someone means I have an extra few hours a week to read a book, take a nap, or work on a business I’m trying to launch, then it’s money well spent.

  46. I’m from the Philippines, and our modestly-sized home was almost always staffed with 2-3 full-time helpers. One was mainly responsible for cleaning, one for cooking, one for laundry. For a brief period we also employed a driver, but in general having a driver didn’t really suit our family’s needs and rhythm. We’ve had so many helpers over the course of life; some stay many, many years, and others not so long. Some help are very loyal and they become like part of the family. Our household situation is very common, and help is definitely acceptable in our culture.

    Do I know how to make my bed, or handwash my clothes, or cook a meal? Yes, because we also had our share of chores. The help is there to help, not to do everything and spoil the family :) Having said that, when I got married and moved out I was a bit shocked to find out that even keeping a small place in order took so much time! Like many other commenters, I realized that work and housework were practically consuming my life and left no time for anything else. Like many of my friends in a similar life-stage (newly married, no kids), we’d “borrow” the help of our parents to clean our homes once a week.

    Currently we both work full time. We have a full time yaya (nanny) for our 1.9 yr old. Laundry gets sent out to the neighborhood laundry shop. We do the cooking and cleaning ourselves, but I wish we had the space (and budget) to accommodate one more full-time helper!

    PS. Having help is not entirely a picnic in the park, especially when they are full time help. Expect some squabbles, finger-pointing, broken items, sub-par performance, etc. You can either look at yourself as an HR Manager, or as a mother with an additional set of (grown-up) kids. :)

  47. I pay a pretty penny to my lovely Lupita that comes every other Wednesday to clean my house. My hubby was a little iffy on the cost to benefit ration, however upon entering our walk in closet and all his clothes were all folded in neat little piles and dusted top shelves he was a convert.
    I also have a gardener and a pool man.
    All these wonderful people have become like family to us, and allow my dear husband to spend lots of time with his children when he’s home on the weekends.
    I am not distracted by the dust bunnies under couches instead of home educating…
    Every now and then I do struggle with the outlay of money every month, and we have experimented over the years, but when it comes right down to it:
    Sanity is priceless and time spent with the kids doing other things is invaluable.
    I thank God that I am in the situation that I can afford this help.
    Also, I will add, we are supporting our economy which is no little thing now.

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